Until a couple of years ago, I was pretty into video games. I don't say this lightly. I'd come home from school and play until I was forced to go to bed. This lasted for quite a while and sadly, I must admit most of this time was wasted. Of course I'm not going to start preaching and running my mouth off about the "evils" of video games, I don't believe in that and I think anyone who tries to condemn an entire industry is a pretty big douche. What then, am I referring to when I say that some games where a waste of my time? RPGs, that's right, possibly the most respected and sought after of all the genres. I realize that this article will piss a lot of people off,(I'm probably exaggerating because this'll be read by maybe five people tops) but as I've established in the past, I don't give a flying fuck what you idiots think of me. There is one good exception to the statement though, and in the next few paragraphs, I'll tell you why.
When I firt started my gaming "career", it was using my dad's old "Atari" console. The games on this platform, as most of you probably know, are quite simple. Most of them involve moving a block that you control to either evade or go after other blocks. Despite gaming's humble beginnings, there are a lot of "classic" games surviving from this era that are popular not for their state-of-the-art graphics or their enthralling storyline, but because they're just plain old fun to play. In my mind, this is the golden age of video gaming, the games were made by relatively small groups of scientific type people who were out to make an enjoyable game and thus sell copies. The only thing addictive about these marvels where that they were in fact, so much fun to play.
I missed the NES era, but I doubt it broke the trend of video games slowly decreasing in fun, yet somehow staying quite addictive. By the time I got my hands on a SNES, I was already super psyched about it, I had heard from friends and commercials about how great it was, and at least for a while, the games were indeed pretty good. My first game was "Donkey Kong Country", a simply great game that had very little in terms of story (as most of you know, it's just about an ape killing crocodiles to get his stash of bananas back). Pleased with the initial game, I bought more, learning quickly that there were plenty of other games as well as genres to try out, and for a while, it was good.
This is when everything started to take a nose dive; As I was systematically trying out new games in hopes that some would soon be added to my collection, I stumbled onto the horrible gas-mine that was "Final Fantasy". At first, I was all like "This is awesome! It's such an awesome game!..." (I wasn't too articulate at this point). I played for long hours and soon beat my first RPG. Pleased by the fact that it was so easy; whereas "Donkey Kong Country" required at least some level of skill to beat that damned King K Rool, all an RPG took to beat it was time, I'd spend hours "leveling up" only for the reward of repeating the process a day later when I came to a point where my level no longer sufficed. What I failed to realize at this point was that walking around a cave and killing the same monsters with the same attacks for an hour really isn't as fun as it is somehow addictive. I'm not sure what kind of psychological affliction I had at this point, but I was happy to sacrifice untold amounts of time to further my addiction with the horrible genre that is RPG.
Advocates of the genre are probably yelling at the computer right now. (yeah, they usually have some pretty big social problems) In any case, they're trying to convince me that not all RPGs need you to level up, and that the games are just as fun as any other genre. I really do feel sorry for these people, I guess it's kinda like being on crack or something, because these people are so obviously wrong. Ok, so not every RPG requires you to waste time improving character stats, but what else really is there to an RPG? In all honesty, it's just story. Think about it, if you removed the whole level and stat aspect from the games, then battles would become obselete, as you can usually just use the "Fight" command over and over again untill everything that isn't on your side is dead. So really, the only part of an RPG that isn't redundant or just plain old boring is the storyline. These stories are usually pretty bad ones too, full of cheap cliches and desined with the sole purpose of keeping you playing. I figured all this out when I got the N64, it didn't have any RPGs for a while, and so I was detoxified from their horrendous effects. When this release from the captivity created by these awefull games was achieved, I was forced to look back on my past and acess my losses.
When I initially looked back on the years I had spent "playing" RPGs, I was like "Holy Fuck! Damn you Japan!!!". I had literally wasted hundreds of hours conquering these "games" and devouring their shabbily put together storylines. I knew that this time had been wasted because I have no urge at all to replay these games, I mean, why would I want to play "FF3" again? It would take hours to beat, the stroy is depressing and long winded and even if I wanted to refresh my memory of this story, I could always just look it up. So there you have it, the reason I hate RPGs, summed up in a nice little essay. But as the first paragraph insinuates, there was some time in this dark era that wasn't a complete waste, the time I spent playing a game called "Earthbound".
To my knowledge, "Earthbound" is the only RPG that does not actually suck the soul out of your already enfeebled body. The reason for this is that it's just so different from the others. Firstly, there's not much of a storyline, in fact, if the game was made into a book, I doubt it could be streched out to more than ten pages. (for those of you who don't know, that's a pretty short book). Better still, the game eliminated the horrible experience that is "leveling up" using an ingenious and realistic solution; If your level's high enough, enemies run away from you, no battle, no wasting time, just a bunch of baddies running from you like stank (which you probably do if you play a lot of RPGs). Added to this aspect is the fact that if you could kill the enemy in one hit, it doesn't even start a battle, you just kill it on the world map and are given the experience and money that you would have gotten normally. The whole battle aspect of this game is pretty different from the "clasical" RPG formula, and added to the lack of a developed storyline, should have made this game pretty bad, even for an RPG right? Wrong, this game managed to break the trend by actually being genuinely entertaining. From the very beginning of the game, when the hero is awakened by a meteor containg a bee (probably doesn't make much sense unless you've played the game) crashes into a hill near his house, right up to the ending scenes, in which you can actually control the hero, "Earthbound" is a great game and does not deserve the stigma that most RPGs deserve.
In closing, most RPGs are like slot machines; they give you nothing but storyline and repetetive battles and somehow manage to addict generations of hopeless gamers. But out of this terrible cloud of zombie making games rises one game that does indeed deserve to be played. There may be more than one of these games, but I've played a lot of RPGs, and Earthbound's the only one that the thought of replaying it doesn't make me want to physically damage the game cartrige. So, in case you're looking for games to play, stick with the shooting games, at least they teach you something.